Over at my favourite blog of all time http://loonpond.blogspot.com.au/ is a critique of Miranda Devine listing the academic and professional qualifications of federal government members. It is one of those shallow obsequious pieces of writing in which Devine specialises, all hagiographic knob-polishing, as loonpond calls it, but it has one interesting feature. Devine did not list the sterling university career of Joe Hockey.
Joe is just like the rest of them, a wealthy male who attended an elite university and obtained qualifications in law. A quick google shows his double degree was in arts and law, but Devine was not for googling that day.
One might have hoped that with all those economic-law degrees floating about the place, one of their holders might be put in charge of the national budget, but that is not how our system works. Despite the elaborate story-telling that is required to sustain facades like ‘reward for effort’ and ‘merit-based promotion’, these narratives remain twisted fairy tales of self-interested lies, disseminated to paint poor people as lazy and rich people as virtuous.
The current federal government is dominated by white men in a culture that – despite the massive work done by generations of women and people of colour – is dominated by white men. Two stand out from the crowd.
The first is Foreign Minister Julie Bishop. Julie is doing her thing, propped up by the usual media toadies. Our foreign policy, what there is of it, lacks any substance or strategy or generosity to the developing world. But she gets out there and sells it relatively competently. She does not serially demonstrate incompetence and complete insensitivity the way Abbott and Hockey do. She’s from Western Australia, so the NSW Independent Commission of Corruption (ICAC) is not closing in on her fund-raising activities. She is credible on her portfolio in that shallow, 24-hour news-cycle, no-need-for-actual-depth-or-knowledge way. Her unsavoury actions as a corporate lawyer defending those nice insurance companies against nasty asbestiosis sufferers are unreported and unscrutinised outside social media. She has followed in the footsteps of a certain breed of thick-skinned and wilfully-ignorant privileged white woman by publicly denying feminism.
The other one is Hockey. Joe is not white. No matter how many blue ties he dons and elite educational institutions he has attended, he will never be a white man, and they know it and he knows it and this is the root of Joe’s try-hard wannabe callousness and aggression. He will never quite belong, but he desperately wants to, so he is always on the lookout for opportunities to out-white-man the white men.
It is relatively well-known that Joe’s family hail from Palestine and Armenia. The two groups have been ruthlessly persecuted: the Palestinians by the Israelis and the Armenians by the Turks. Both groups have suffered, if not final solution genocide, then at the very least genocidal intentions aimed at their peoples.
Being a politician, Joe dusts off his heritage every now and then and trots it out for political gain. The most memorable occasion was his dishonest and calculated histrionics about children in detention when in opposition. We haven’t heard much from Joe on children in detention, or murders in detention, or criminal neglect in detention, since Joe became Treasurer. We haven’t heard anything because Joe does not care about people in detention, not children, not anyone. Like a lot of rich people, he wants to pull up the ladder that he had the privilege to climb, and spit on those below.
But Hockey is in all assorts of trouble. Six months after it was tabled in the House of Representatives, much of his budget has not passed the Senate. The odious Finance Minister Matthias Cormann is being wheeled out to sell the compromises and deals and back-room bargains the government is trying to close. Cormann is no better at budget salesmanship than Joe, but he is white, even if he is the worst thing to come out of Brussels since the sprout (as comedian Subby Valentine quipped last week). Whiteness routinely attracts credibility, and is rewarded with it on a silver platter by the gutter press.
The state of ICT having reached where it has, there is ample evidence kicking about the internet that Joe Hockey is a deeply unpleasant man. The most recent story doing the rounds, and the inspiration for this post, is that Joe called the Mayor of North Sydney at 6pm on a Friday night to discuss the placement of outdoor furniture at a pizza restaurant. The Mayor has denied taking the call. Joe has not denied making it. In one column I saw, Joe seemed to be proud of throwing his weight around in front of his children while childishly tantrumming for not getting what he wanted, which was an outdoor table and footpath realignment or something.
What a truly awful man. The cigars on budget night also got a wide airing. There they were, Hockey and Cormann, chomping away on the best Havana could produce, in celebration of kicking the poor from here to next year – on health, education, and income support. The three most fundamental universal tenets of our liberal democracy went up in a puff of smoke, driven skywards by a bunch of bandits who call themselves Liberals. Revolting.
Then there was the dancing. Joe was reportedly dancing in his office with the wife while the primary-school aged son entertained himself to the tune of ‘Best Day of My Life’. Again, ew yuck gross, but what about the excuse Joe gave the next day? ‘It was more to do with our little boy’ Joe assured ABC radio. He hadn’t seen his boy for want of budget work, you see, so when he did see the child he was so happy that he danced with his wife while the child sat by in dad’s office. No politicisation of family there, nope none at all, nothing to do with budget night celebrations. Just sheer joy at seeing his son. Ugh.
All this is repulsive of course, but the real problem is reflected in the nickname bestowed on Hockey: eleventy. The man can not add up. He is economically illiterate. A dunce. Bottom of the class. He can’t explain the budget, partly because he doesn’t care about its impacts on the most vulnerable, but chiefly because he has no idea what he’s talking about. Like most powerful incompetent men who are promoted way beyond their abilities, he only has two settings when called out: indignant and sooky. This is the bully mode of operating, for all bullies are cowards who project their inner sookiness with aggression. Anger and self-pity are pretty much the two least attractive traits in any person, and are most certainly hideous when displayed in public by complacent, self-entitled, smug male elites.
So Joe is a terrible politician, stumbling and bumbling about his portfolio, appearing sweaty and dishevelled on television, unnerved, incompetent and in turns impulsively arrogant and horribly stupid. He does not grasp fiscal matters and he can not sell his message.
Joe is also the member for North Sydney. While we await the findings of the ICAC, here are a few observations that suggest to me that Joe will be the first minister in the Abbott government to be demoted.
The first is the obvious demographic flaw of having been born a brown person yet choosing to join the Liberal Party. The Libs are no place for women or gays or brown or black folks. Every person who belongs to one of these groups and the Liberal Party is asking to be exploited and demoralised and hung out to dry. I simply do not get Aboriginal membership of the Liberal Party, or women members of the Liberal Party. But then I do not really get membership of political parties in general. All political parties strike me as hyper-masculine aggressive spaces where women are shouted down and talked over and belittled and ignored.
Next, the North Sydney Forum, the fund-raising sub-branch of the Millennium Forum established for the election of Joe, is looking a bit tarnished when a key fund-raiser was called before the ICAC in August. The trail is murky, and I do not have the investigative skills of the great Kate McClymont, journalist hero of the ICAC hearings, who recently spoke so eloquently on the terrible experience that is a lawyered-up politician intent on quashing public debate through the cunning use of defamation law. But anyway, here goes.
There are laws against accepting money from developers in NSW, because the relationship between developers and politicians has been showed to be continually, systemically corrupt. Yet the developer corporation Buildev continued to donate to the Liberal Party through various guises. Emails obtained by the corruption watchdog show that developer Nathan Tinkler was not shy in articulating his demands for returns on his investment-donation from the ruling LNP government. Two state Liberal MPs resigned over specific corrupt dealings with developers. Another seven have moved to cross-benches to await the ICAC findings. Those who resigned have been replaced with Labor members. The LNP decided not to contest the by-elections. Again, this is at NSW state political level. ICAC has no remit over federal matters.
The state-federal intersection gets difficult to trace. It requires a stronger grasp of the relationship between the parliamentary representatives who form government and political party structures – fund-raising, pre-selection, state executive and the like – than I have or care to acquire. These parliamentary and administrative arms of the Liberal party are separate on paper, yet obviously overlap in life: membership, degrees of influence that numbers men have over candidates and safe seats and so on. To claim that the two are separate or independent entities is legal sophistry. Each exists for the other.
The Millennium Forum was headed by executive chairman Paul Nicolaou, a former head of the pubs and pokies lobby group and acting state director of the Liberal Party. The organisation has been quickly dismantled and rebuilt as the Federal Forum, with the same purpose, structure, and avarice. The Liberal Party is awash with trust fund lawyers and corporate types who are expert in the accrual and disguise of wealth. The replacement of the Millenium Forum with the Federal Forum may fool nobody, it is a tried and tired trick, but it still works to keep the law at bay and the money rolling in.
These dodgy favour-sellers are the end-product of an ugly mix of politics, power, wealth, and deception. The misuse of the law for one’s own ends, like some kind of rich boys’ vigilante posse, perverts the spirit of the law. Exploiting every letter of every relevant law, many of which they have had an active hand in making or amending, is gross and naked greed, wealthy westerners at our absolute worst, corrupting democratic processes for the sordid ends of the power-addicted uber-rich.
The other piece of writing on the wall centres on yet more emails, this time from the desk of Federal Liberal party director Brian Loughnane. This one is also deeply murky on many levels. Briza is married to Peta Credlin, who is Tony Abbott’s chief of staff. Credlin is ubiquitous, ever-present, globetrotting, permanently by Abbott’s side, always quick with a sanitary wipe or a handy word for those hair dye and spray tan and clunking inanity emergencies.
Here is the rub. If the ICAC closes in on corrupt donations to the Liberal Party, and the Millennium Forum has been replaced by the Federal Forum, and the North Sydney Forum is all about Joe, and the federal director is married to the chief of staff and the shit hits the fan, someone will have to take the fall. Political parties are like every other political organisation in the history of humanity that has recognised the ancient powerful usefulness of the sacrificial goat.
The goat is almost certainly Joe. The ICAC problems are centred in Sydney and surrounds. Abbott and Credlin will be protected at all costs. Joe is brown. He is terrible at his job. The North Sydney Forum has been selling a pup: access to Joe for annual membership of $22,000 per annum. We too have been sold a pup, of course, paying millions in salary and benefits to a Treasurer who can’t explain indexation without slurring the poor and revealing the depth of his arrogance and ignorance.
The age of entitlement is over, declared Joe, a bloke who demands that an elected mayor should take time out on a Friday night to soothe old Joe over street furniture and fire regulations. Poor people don’t have cars chortled Joe as he struggled to explain an increase in the fuel excise despite the fact that he is remunerated to the tune of $400,000 every year by us to know, understand and communicate such concepts. I never intended to offend anyone sweated Joe, as true to his breed he proved yet again that it is absolutely impossible for born-to-rule elite men to offer sincere apologies for their multitude of careless oversights, brash ignorance, and cruel determination to make others’ lives a misery.
As invisible as Joe after another of his jaw-droppingly incoherent ramblings on the budget are the national economic figures under this pack of brats who endlessly tout themselves as the party of economic management. I wouldn’t trust them with the lunch money. They are stupendously bad at economic management. They don’t know what they’re doing and they don’t care. Hockey is even worse than John Howard as Treasurer under Fraser, and Howard was until now the worst Treasurer in living memory. He knew nothing, got there on the numbers, and sheer rat cunning. Joe is worse.
The best source is over at the blog of Steven Koukoulas http://thekouk.com/ but here is a brief summary. Both business and consumer confidence are lower than each index has shown since before the election. Employment is down. The economy is barely growing, and at a sharply lower rate. The dollar has dropped to the high 80s against the greenback after being above parity under the previous government. The budget deficit has more than doubled in the one year of LNP government. Yep, the Libs have run up more debt in a year than Labor accumulated during two terms and responding to the Global Financial Crisis. The Labor deficit was genuine policy-based Keynesian economics that kept us out of recession. The LNP deficit is sheer profligacy and poor management.
We have no climate policy except the absurd notion that paying $2 billion to big polluters to not pollute is some kind of substitute for policy. Our dream of a National Broadband Network – an obvious social equaliser with massive economy-wide efficiency dividends – is in tatters. Our Prime Minister has committed to spending half-a-billion dollars per year in another baseless shameful invasion of Iraq despite the fact that the Iraqis do not want us there. Super jets. Rich parents paid to breed. Continued fuel subsidies to foreign-owned mining companies while the punters pay more at the bowser. Increased costs to access health services. And the absolute basest fruit-loopiest insult of all: a call from the king of all haters and juvenile stunts himself, Tony ditch-the-witch no-doesn’t-mean-no Abbott, calling for a debate on increasing the goods and services tax “without hurling insults”. He said that with a straight face. He is beyond help.
There is another reason I chose to remind ourselves of the odious characters in charge of our economy. The government has appointed the equally self-entitled mega-miner Twiggy Forrest to review welfare spending. Twigs reckons the road to empowerment of low-income households is to foist an in-kind no-cash system on the nation’s most impoverished citizens. In the grand tradition of these things, it is being touted as a ‘healthy welfare’ card. No booze, no smokes, just government-approved spending from the bullshit department of the party of small government and freedom telling you what you may buy in the way of groceries for your household.
This disgusting piece of social control, this gross invasion by government into the tiniest details of the private lives of citizens, this revolting meting out of punishment to people who are actively impoverished and oppressed by the state, has already been around for seven years in our national laboratory for oppressive impoverishment, also known as remote Aboriginal communities.
These kinds of government actions are deliberate humiliation of the poor. It is extreme neo-liberal ideology of the worst kind, the kind that says poor people are lazy and rich people not just hard-working but somehow retrospectively endowed with great wisdom and virtue – because they’ve plundered and manipulated their way to a fortune through cheap access to mineral resources, rent-seeking, wage-cutting, mass sackings and the rich man’s gambling den, the stock market.
Think twice about invisible Joe. His day is coming sooner than the rest of the bandits running around at our expense, shafting all but the wealthy, and pretending to govern the country.